Strengthen Media Literacy to Win the Fight Against Misinformation
We need to radically expand and accelerate our counterattacks on lies
The deliberate or unintentional spread of misinformation, despite capturing widespread public attention, remains as rampant as ever, showing up recently in the form of false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, the Capitol riot, and many other topics. This “infodemic” is polarizing politics, endangering communities, weakening institutions, and leaving people unsure what to believe or whom to trust. It threatens the foundations of democratic governance, social cohesion, national security, and public health.
Misinformation is a long-term problem that demands long-term, sustainable solutions as well as short-term interventions. We've seen a number of quicker, technological fixes that improve the social media platforms that supply information. Companies like Facebook and Twitter, for example, have adjusted their algorithms or called out problematic content. We've also seen slower, human-centered approaches that make people smarter about the media they demand to access online. Evidence-driven educational programs, for instance, have made people better at discerning the reliability of information sources, distinguishing facts from opinions, resisting emotional manipulation, and being good digital citizens.
It hasn't been enough. If we're to stop misinformation and its insidious effects, we need to radically expand and accelerate our counterattacks. It will take all sectors of society: business, nonprofits, advocacy organizations, philanthropists, researchers, governments, and more. We also need to balance our efforts. For too long, too many resources and debates have focused on changing the technology, not educating people. This emphasis on the supply side of the problem without a similar investment in the demand side may be a less effective use of time and energy.
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